What is a Featured Image (thumbnail) in WordPress? How to add it?

Images are vital components of every physical magazine. Way before they went online, editors took advantage of visual media to entice people into reading stories. Before you start questioning the importance of images, just try to imagine your favorite magazine without ones. Would you be as much interested into reading about technology, cars or fashion and makeup if the magazine contained no images?

When first magazines went online, images couldn’t play a significant role in their existence. Internet connections were slow, and no one could load dozens of images per page. Luckily, things have changed, and now we can’t live without online media.

The same principle can apply to a personal blog or your business website. In a modern world, you just can’t have a site without pictures. They are way more important than you might even imagine. But among many different images that you can add to Media Library in WordPress, one type stands out.

What is a featured image in WordPress

Although a featured image is just another media file that you can add to WordPress, it deserves special treatment. This kind of picture can help you grab the attention of your visitors. It is used to entice individuals into reading your stories, boost up the visual quality of your blog, and it even plays a notable role in social media sharing. So, don’t neglect the importance of a featured image.

Featured images are controlled by WordPress themes.

Not that long ago, many WordPress themes haven’t had support for them. Just the most careful developers were kind enough to introduce featured images into their themes, while all the others had to code the feature themselves. Luckily, times have changed, and now most of the themes are completely ready for featured images.

Where do featured images appear on your site?

Usually, a featured image in WordPress will find its place under the spotlights of your homepage. They are used as thumbnails which represent the entire post. More often than not, the same post thumbnail (which is also another name for a featured image) links directly to that post. By selecting a featured image for a post, you can set the entire tone of your story. While a good photo may tempt a visitor into reading the whole post, a bad one can easily repel an average reader.

WordPress featured images on the front page

Also, the same featured images usually appear on top of the single posts, pages and custom post types in WordPress. Depending on the theme that you’re using, a featured image may appear just above or below the title. It may come up in different dimensions; it all depends on a theme developer who worked on the details.

Again, depending on the theme, featured images may be used elsewhere. For example, if you add a widget to show the most recent posts, post thumbnails may be used to add more style to the widget and to get more attention from your visitors.

Some themes will even show the images in the WordPress admin pages, right next to their assigned posts.

How to add a featured image

When we walked you through adding your first post in WordPress, we also mentioned the featured image tab that’s located on the right-hand side of the screen. Just in case you can’t find the tab, you should check your screen options:

  1. Add a new post or edit an existing one
  2. Scroll all the way up
  3. Click on the “Screen Options” tab in top-right corner
  4. Make sure that the “Featured Image” box is checked

WordPress Screen Options post editor

On a fresh WordPress site, the featured image tab will be located at the very bottom of the sidebar on the right side. Check if you have one, and prepare yourself for adding your first post thumbnail:

  1. Click on the “Set featured image” link located in the “Featured Image” box
  2. A new window will open the Media Library
  3. Select any image that you have or upload a new one from the computer
  4. Once you choose the image, click the “Set featured image” button

WordPress featured image

This is it! You can now see the preview of a picture right in the Featured Image box. If you want to see what it looks like in the post, you can quickly scroll up and click on the “Preview” button.

Drag&Drop Featured Image


Drag and Drop featured image in WordPress

If you like to drag and drop images to your WordPress Media Library, you should consider adding this free plugin to the list of the active ones on your site. Just by installing Drag&Drop Featured Image plugin, the regular link for adding thumbnail post will change. Instead of clicking the link and then uploading a new image, you will able to drag and drop the picture directly to the spot.

How to remove or replace a post thumbnail

Sometimes, you will want to remove or replace a post thumbnail. Whether you have found or created a better photo, or there was an issue with the first one, it will take just a few clicks to make the change:

  1. Click on the “Remove featured image” link located in the “Featured Image” box below the thumbnail
  2. If you want to set a new image, repeat the steps for adding a new featured image

What if your theme doesn’t have the option?

Although most of the themes today are ready for featured images, there are still some that don’t utilize the feature. To manually add the feature, you would need to have some basic understanding of WordPress development. Luckily, you can go around that and forget the code. We will show you some WordPress plugins that will quickly introduce post thumbnails to your theme. With those extensions, you can even let WordPress automatically handle featured images.

Dynamic Featured Image


Dynamic Featured Image

The fact that this free plugin counts more than 70,000 active users tells you that there are still quite a lot of themes that need extra care about post thumbnails. Dynamic Featured Image allows you to add multiple images, so you don’t have to depend on only that one that’s usually available. Without touching code, the plugin will prepare selected images and allow other theme functions to access them when necessary. You can just relax; there’s nothing you need to do about that.

The plugin is an excellent choice when you’re working with other plugins which need featured images and sliders that will display them to your users. There is even a premium version which adds several other functions.

Quick Featured Images


Quick Featured Images

From the very moment you install this plugin, everything can work on the autopilot. Quick Featured Images will let you set a default featured image. So, whenever you forget to set one, the plugin will use the default thumbnail. It can also replace or remove images from any number of selected posts at once.

Additionally, this free plugin adds a picture in a sortable image column in lists of posts, pages, and custom post types. There are also different filters and rules that will let you customize the way your site handles post thumbnails.


In today’s world, you just can’t allow yourself to have a site that doesn’t use featured images. If you are WordPress beginner, this post should have helped you understand them better. You should also know how to add ones to your posts, pages, and custom post types.

Depending on the theme you have, setting featured images should be as easy as clicking the link and picking an image. But if you were unlucky when choosing a theme for your site, just use one of the plugins that will fix things up and even enhance the feature on your site.

Do you like using featured images? Do you use the standard option that came with your theme or have you installed a plugin to help you with that? Let us know in the comments.


This guide is an introduction to mastering the art of blogging. It provides easy to follow steps to start, maintain, and grow your blog.

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